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Menopause and Acupuncture



Edited by Dr. Qinghong Han A.P.

The term "menopause" is commonly used to describe any of the changes a woman experiences either just before or after she stops menstruating. Most women in their 45-55 years old may get menopause symptoms. Some women experience induced menopause as a result of surgery or medical treatments. such as chemotherapy and pelvic radiation therapy.

Menopause symptoms may include hot flashes, night sweats, pain during intercourse, increased anxiety or irritability, and frequent urination, insomnia, fatigue, mood swings, memory loss, vaginal dryness, headaches, joint pain, and weight gain. The drop of estrogen and progesterone is believed to be the cause of many of the symptoms associated with menopause. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views menopausal symptoms as the outcome of a lifetime of choices and dietary habits. Most symptoms result from a decline of the body’s kidney energy, which includes essence, yin, and yang. Lifestyle choices are also contributors to a difficult menopause that weaken the flow of energy to the kidneys, including emotional stress, such as anxiety; overwork; inadequate rest; and an irregular diet.

In Asian countries, the incidence of menopausal symptoms among women is dramatically less than Western countries. Statistics showed that only 15% Asian women may have menopausal symptoms, while 75% western women may experience the same condition. This disparity is primarily due to differences in diet and the use of traditional medicines. Often, women in Asian countries begin to use acupuncture and herbal medicine prior to approaching menopause decreasing their likelihood of experiencing the negative aspects of these life changes. The most significant difference in the diet between woman in Asia and women in Western countries is the consumption of soy products. Many women in Asian countries consume ten times the amount of soy products as their Western counterparts, eating them at every meal. Soy has a high concentration of phytoestrogens, plant compounds similar in chemical structure to estradiol, helping to alleviate menopause symptoms and protect against osteoporosis.

A woman going through menopause can experience a variety of symptoms, such as hot flashes and headaches, which are difficult to deal without support. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) can alleviate the symptoms of menopause by nourishing the essence within the body, balancing the hormonal system. In my clinic, I use herbs, acupuncture and diet therapy to treat menopause symptoms in a safe and gentle way for women. Even if a woman chooses to use hormone replacement therapy (HRT), a conventional approach to menopause, she still can complement those treatments with herbal therapies and acupuncture because each works in different ways.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) may alleviate hot flashes and prevent osteoporosis, but they may also increase the risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer, and have a number of significant side effects. HRT isn't the only solution. Studies around the globe have suggested that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are effective treatments for hot flashes, anxiety, insomnia, vaginal dryness and many other symptoms associated with menopause. Recent studies show extremely positive results. In studies there was little evidence to suggest that any hormonal fluctuations by acupuncture were themselves responsible for the changes in symptom severity. Researchers suggest the reason why acupuncture may work for women suffering from hot flashes is that the treatment is able to boost the production of endorphins and that could help stabilize body temperature.

Chinese medicine considers menopausal symptoms are caused by kidney deficiency. The length, number and frequency of acupuncture treatments may vary. Typical treatments last from 20 to 30 minutes, with the patient being treated one or two times a week. In my practice, some symptoms are relieved after the first treatment, while more severe or chronic ailments often require multiple treatments and maintenance treatment. Chinese kidney tonic herbal formulas have been effectively used for thousands of years to treat menopausal symptoms.